Fox News Channel tops USA in cable ratings

Boosted by coverage of Massachusetts special election

Fox News Channel last week won the cable ratings race for the first time since November 2008, drawing 3.21 million total viewers in primetime.

Boosted by its coverage of the Massachusetts special election, FNC beat USA Network by some 19,000 viewers during the week ended Jan. 24, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data. FNC's primetime lineup for Tuesday, Jan. 19, accounted for three of ad-supported cable's 10 most-watched programs, as "The O'Reilly Factor" drew 5.23 million viewers at 8 p.m., followed by "Hannity" (6.81 million) and "On the Record with Greta van Sustern" (6.4 million).

FNC also delivered on the demo front, averaging 868,000 adults 25-54, good for fourth place on the week.

In April 2009, FNC executives told Mediaweek that it was gunning for the No. 1 seat, having eclipsed its cable news competition. The last time FNC won the ratings crown was a little more than 14 months ago, during the week of 2008 presidential election (Nov. 3-9). In that seven-day stretch, FNC averaged 3.54 million total viewers, of whom 1.14 million were members of the core news demo.

While USA Network took second on the week (3.19 million viewers), the programmer held its ground among the two major TV demos, averaging 1.43 million adults 25-54 and 1.32 million viewers 18-49. The Jan. 21 mid-season premiere of "Burn Notice" drew 5.35 million viewers, nearly half of whom were adults 25-54 (2.6 million). Meanwhile, "WWE Raw" on Monday night scared up 5.29 million viewers, a delivery that included 2.49 million 25-54s and 2.6 million viewers 18-49.

Third place went to Nick at Nite (2.24 million viewers). The network set a pair of in-house records with its Jan. 18 lineup, as a new episode of "iCarly" served up 11.2 million viewers at 8 p.m. The half-hour "iCarly" posted its strongest deliveries of kids 2-11 (5.7 million), kids 6-11 (4.7 million) and 'tweens 9-14 (4.5 million), per Nielsen.

The premiere of Nick at Nite's "Big Time Rush" retained 61% of its iCarly lead-in, drawing 6.77 million viewers.

TNT claimed fourth place in prime, averaging 1.98 million total viewers. The Turner net took third among adults 25-54 (919,000), and placed fifth with 18-49s (895,000). Its biggest draw of the week came in the form of the Jan. 21 Lakers-Cavs tilt, which averaged 3.95 million viewers, including 2.04 million viewers 18-49.

A&E closed out the top five with 1.85 million viewers, and its demos were even stronger. The network seized second place among adults 25-54 (976,000) and finished third with 18-49s (914,000).

If the week's top draws among the core TV demo are always a mixed bag of genres and formats, last week's results were singularly varied. MTV's unscripted hit "Jersey Shore" ran off with the demo, drawing 3.36 million viewers 18-49 in its Thursday 10 p.m. time slot. A one-hour reunion episode gave JWoww, Snooki and The Situation a little more air time, and 2.91 million viewers 18-49 appreciated the effort. Lifetime set a personal best with its original movie "The Pregnancy Pact" (3.22 million viewers 18-49), while "WWE Raw" kept slugging away with 2.6 million.

Other big draws were: USA's "Burn Notice" (2.51 million 18-49s), Nick at Nite's "iCarly" (2.4 million), History's unscripted series "Pawn Stars" (2.36 million), E!'s "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" (2.16 million) and USA's scripted drama "White Collar" (2.12 million).

Last week's top 10 ad-supported cable nets among the core TV demo were: USA, averaging 1.32 million viewers 18-49; TBS (929,000); A&E (914,000); Lifetime (908,000); TNT (895,000); FX (837,000); History (767,000); MTV (738,000) Discovery Channel (679,000) and truTV (636,000).

Non-ad-supported Disney Channel held on to third place among all basic-cable nets, averaging 2.48 million viewers. While Nick at Nite has begun closing the gap, The Mouse continued its multiyear winning streak among the core kiddie demos, drawing 1.35 million viewers 2-11, 1.4 million viewers 6-14, 1.07 million kids 6-11 and 908,000 'tweens 9-14.

The latter demo is becoming increasingly turbulent, as Nick at Nite continues to make headway with 'tween viewers. Nick at Nite last week averaged 815,000 viewers 9-14, putting it within 93,000 viewers of its archrival.